BEIJING, China - The Philippines media has released photos of the recently concluded construction at the South China Sea - which shows that the country has added new developments in the disputed waters.
According to the new military intelligence photographs, the advancements made at China’s artificial island fortresses were revealed.
Experts noted that the photos and video have, for the first time, shown the illegal construction of artificial islands in the contested Spratly Islands.
Reports noted that the close-up detail in the commercial satellite photographs confirmed the fears raised by international affairs experts in the past two years that these are massive, impeccably constructed and impressively equipped military fortresses.
Over the last decade, Beijing has seized these mid-ocean reefs and has turned them into islands and has unilaterally declared them sovereign territory.
Even though the international court of arbitration rejected the territorial claim in 2016, China continues to equip the islands from sophisticated equipment and constructions that U.S. and other Asia Pacific regions call militarization of the disputed islands.
The military intelligence photographs taken between June and December last year were obtained by the Philippines news service The Daily Inquirer, and show China’s fortresses on the disputed islands.
The photos were reportedly taken via telescopic sights on surveillance aircraft flying at the very edge of what China claims to be its new territorial airspace.
However, this is not recognized under international law.
The report accompanying the photos said that the remarkably clear images show the air fields, armoured hangars, naval docks, barracks, radar networks and defensive structures on the artificial islands are complete and in the final stages of construction.
According to Asia Maratime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), an international think-tank has also pointed to the existence of underground tunnels and ammunition storage, missile and anti-aircraft gun positions, military radars and high-frequency surveillance antennas.
Further, Beijing seems to be poised to surge combat aircraft, troops and ships to the islands to fully militarize their new dominance of the contested sea.
Meanwhile, the other neighboring countries that also claim the islands, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan - whose national territory and economic zones, as defined by the UN under international law established after World War II - are now being pushed aside.
The photographs reportedly focus on Beijing’s bases in the Spratly Islands — such as Mischief (Panganiban) Reef, Subi (Zamora) Reef and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef.
The report noted that these bases are Beijing’s largest bases in the area and contain air fields and harbours capable of supporting the largest military aircraft and vessels.
The harbours, all but complete, are bursting with civilian and military ships bringing in supplies and personnel.
The report noted that Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that government policy to accept China’s “good faith commitment” to not reclaim any more islands or militarize the area as “fantasyland.”
Carpio said, “You don’t rely on the good faith of the thief [who’s trying to break] into your house. If you have that mindset, you rely on the good faith of someone who’s trying to break into your house, that means you’re out [of touch] with reality. You’re in a fantasyland. That’s not how the world is put together. That’s not realpolitik. If we lose [our maritime space in the West Philippine Sea], we lose it forever.”
Asserting its sovereignty over the South China Sea, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a warning last month after a U.S. warship entered waters near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
The ministry said it would take all “necessary measures” to safeguard its territory.
Over the last few months, China has expanded the size and frequency of its naval and air force activities within the western Pacific, alarming nations including Taiwan and Japan.